Dave Ghose again lives life in Columbus with no car for one week and records his experience.
We're doing something unusual with this issue. For the first time, we've dedicated almost the entire publication to a single subject: transportation, one of the hottest topics in town and an issue that business leaders are increasingly recognizing as important.
It also seemed like a good time for me to revisit one of my favorite journalism stunts of my career. In 2005, I wrote a story, “Carless in Columbus,” for our sister publication Columbus Monthly that traced my experiences living without a car for a week. It was a much different time, obviously, and I thought it would be interesting to see how things have changed.
First, some caveats: A few variables are different for me. While I live in the same home on the northern edge of the University District, our offices have moved Downtown from the north side, a shift that makes taking public transportation easier. However, my wife and I were childless 13 years ago, and we now have two kids, ages 9 and 12, which clearly complicates our circumstances.
So here's what I discovered:
Magic Bus: My employer, the Dispatch Media Group, is part of the Central Ohio Transit Authority's C-pass program—which aims to decrease traffic congestion and parking challenges Downtown—but until I went carless for a week in October, I really hadn't taken advantage of the initiative. The cost savings are extraordinary—$140 a month if I give up my Downtown parking spot and go all in on C-pass (which is free for me). I also found the bus commute pleasant and convenient, an improvement upon my experiences 13 years ago. I'd be crazy not to ride the bus to work every day—if it weren't for one thing:
The Cello Problem: My wife and I drop our daughter off at her elementary school every morning and then pick her up in the evenings at her after-care program. We live about two miles away from her school, but that still doesn't qualify her for school bus transportation, and we don't think it's fair or practical to make her walk, especially on the two days a week she needs to bring her cello to school. As a result, I relied on Lyft and Yellow Cab of Columbus to get my daughter to school during my carless experiment. Both were convenient, fast and the cost was about the same, but if I continued to use the services, I'd eat up my C-pass savings.
Scootin': I didn't plan on using one of the new scooter services, but when I couldn't find a Lime bike near my offices Downtown—and I was too intimidated by CoGo Bike Share's docking station—I gave scootin' a try. It turned out to be easy, efficient and affordable. I rode a Lime scooter—an option that wasn't even imagined 13 years ago— all the way home via the Fourth Street bike path, zipping by congested traffic in the Short North. It cost me $3.15 and took me 21 minutes, quicker than my usual car drive. If the weather is good, it's hard to beat.
The Joy of Walking: This experiment reminded me of something important. When I took my son home from soccer practice one evening and picked up both him and his sister from an after-school program on another, we took the No. 2 bus along High Street and then walked for about a half mile to our home. Those walks were my favorite part of the experiment. The fresh evening air seemed to bring out the best in them and me. We actually talked to each other, and that doesn't always happen during our car rides home. I don't think my current circumstances allow me to go carless—or even semi-carless—but I am ready to spend more time moving around the city on my own two feet.